Super Bowl counterprogramming
Although it is consistently one of the most watched television programs in the United States annually, broadcasters have sometimes attempted to intentionally counterprogram against the Super Bowl by running new programming against the game as an alternative, such as special episodes of existing series, one-off special presentations, and previews of new series, typically during its halftime break.
The most prominent success of the concept came in 1992, when Fox broadcast a special, live edition of its sketch comedy program In Living Color during halftime at Super Bowl XXVI, taking advantage of the then-unpopular format of Super Bowl halftime shows. The special drew 22 million viewers, prompting the NFL to book more prominent pop music acts to perform at future Super Bowl halftime shows to compete.
Broadcasters who do not air original programming against the Super Bowl will typically air reruns of existing programming—sometimes as marathons, prior to and during the game; in recent years, as they all broadcast NFL games or have ties to an outlet who does—and three of them alternate airing the game yearly—the United States' four major television networks have rarely broadcast new programming against the Super Bowl in an effort to protect the game's viewership as a sign of respect.
in the 1970s and 1980s, the majority of Super Bowl halftime shows were themed, musical spectacles that often featured marching bands and performance ensembles such as Up with People (who performed in four Super Bowl halftime shows between 1976 and 1986 and performed at the pre-game show of Super Bowl XXV in 1991). The group's halftime shows were described as being "wholesome" and "inoffensive" by critics, but were frequently derided for being dated and out of touch with modern popular culture.
Super Bowl counterprogramming was first popularized by Fox. As an alternative, the then-fledging Fox network aired a special live episode of its popular sketch comedy show In Living Color during halftime at Super Bowl XXVI (which featured a halftime show entitled "Winter Magic", a Winter Olympics-themed show starring Gloria Estefan, Brian Boitano, and Dorothy Hamill to tie into CBS's upcoming broadcast of the Games). The live episode featured football-themed sketches (such as Men on Football), a performance by Color Me Badd, and a clock counting down to the start of the third quarter. The episode was sponsored by Frito-Lay, who paid $2 million to hold all national advertising time, and to help budget and promote the special; the effort included a $1,000,000 giveaway, whose winner was announced during the broadcast. A CBS executive felt that the concept was "cute", but dismissed concerns that the ambush would have any major impact on the viewership of the Super Bowl. The special drew 20 to 25 million viewers away from the Super Bowl; Nielsen estimated that CBS lost 10 ratings points during halftime as a result of the special.
The unexpected success of the In Living Color special prompted the NFL to heighten the halftime show's profile to help retain viewership; beginning at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, the NFL began to invite major pop music performers to perform during the halftime show. The first of these, featuring Michael Jackson, led to a dramatic increase in viewership between halves—the first in the game's history. Later that year, Fox acquired rights to the NFL's National Football Conference (NFC), replacing CBS, beginning in the 1994 season. The acquisition was a notable coup which helped to establish Fox's position as a major network in its own right, and made Fox one of the three cycling broadcasters of the Super Bowl itself.
The NFL has continued to stay true to its goal of ensuring that the halftime show is as much of a spectacle as the game itself, which has complimented the absolute dominance of the Super Bowl in television viewership. Besides a string of halftime shows from 2006 to 2011 that featured veteran rock acts in the wake of the Super Bowl XXXVIII "wardrobe malfunction", the practice of inviting pop acts to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show has continued. The Super Bowl XLIX halftime show featuring Katy Perry was seen by 118.5 million viewers, as part of an overall telecast that was the most-watched television broadcast in American history.
As all four major U.S. television networks currently have ties to the NFL and broadcast its games (CBS, Fox, and NBC alternate airing the Super Bowl yearly and air regular season games, and ABC's parent company owns ESPN, which broadcasts Monday Night Football during the regular season, and has simulcast its Wild Card playoff game on ABC since 2016), Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune believed that there was now "zero likelihood some broadcast network is going to launch a broadside against the NFL's showcase.", while a GQ writer argued that the practice was now obsolete, due to the larger number of media options that have emerged since. As such, the networks not airing the game will typically air reruns of existing programs. Fox provided an exception in 2010, when it aired new episodes of 'Til Death during the game; Fox had been burning off the fourth season of the low-rated sitcom in unconventional time slots (such as having aired a marathon of four new episodes on Christmas Day), so its distributor would have enough episodes for syndication.
Counterprogramming efforts are not limited to television; for Super Bowl XLV in 2011, WCHK-FM, a station in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area announced it would counterprogram the game with dead air, since the hometown Packers were in the game. However, its goal was not to attract listeners from the game, but to do the opposite. The freeform program Anything Anything with Rich Russo has counterprogrammed the Super Bowl with Dr. Demento. Counterprogramming expanded to the internet in 2015, when YouTube announced that it would broadcast an alternative, online halftime show featuring notable personalities from the video sharing service.
List of notable Super Bowl halftime counterprogramsEdit
In regards to original programming, recurring Super Bowl counters have included Animal Planet's annual Puppy Bowl, a special featuring dogs at play in a model football stadium (which itself spawned imitators—the Kitten Bowl and Fish Bowl, in 2014), and the Lingerie Bowl, a series of pay-per-view broadcasts of all-female football games played in lingerie—proving popular enough to be expanded into its own Lingerie Football League with the Lingerie Bowl as its championship game. The LFL was later re-launched as a conventional women's football league, the Legends Football League, and moved its season to run during the NFL off-season instead.
During the 1990s, MTV was a recurring provider of counterprogramming, having scheduled new episodes of Beavis and Butt-head against the halftime show on multiple occasions. In 1998 and 1999, MTV aired "Deathbowl" episodes of a new stop-motion animated series, Celebrity Deathmatch. The 1998 airing was followed by a series premiere in May: in the spirit of the Super Bowl airings, it was scheduled to air on the same night as the series finale of Seinfeld.
On the day of the Super Bowl, cable channels often air special, and sometimes themed marathons of existing programming prior to and/or during the game, such as Cartoon Network having aired a marathon of 2 Stupid Dogs that it dubbed the "Stupid Bowl", and DIY Network broadcasting a marathon of bathroom-related programming known as the "Toilet Bowl". During Super Bowl XLV, as Canadian Super Bowl broadcaster CTV did not hold rights to Fox's lead-out Glee, series rightsholder Global aired a marathon of Glee-themed programming (including previous episodes, and Glee-themed episodes of other series) against the game to lead into the simulcast of the new episode "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle" after the game.
|XXVI||1992||Fox||In Living Color||"In Living Color Super Halftime Party"|
|XXVIII||1994||MTV||Beavis and Butt-head||"Butt Bowl"|
|XXIX||1995||MTV||Beavis and Butt-head||"Party", "Wet Behind The Rears"|
|XXX||1996||MTV||Beavis and Butt-head|
|XXXI||1997||MTV||Beavis and Butt-head||"Butt, Butt, Hike!", "Vaya Con Cornholio"|
|XXXII||1998||MTV||Celebrity Deathmatch||"Deathbowl '98": Howard Stern vs. Kathie Lee Gifford; Pamela Anderson vs. RuPaul; Hanson vs. The Spice Girls.|
|XXXIII||1999||USA||WWF Sunday Night Heat||"Halftime Heat": Empty arena "I Quit" match between The Rock and Mankind.|
|MTV||Celebrity Deathmatch||"Deathbowl '99": Dolly Parton vs. Jennifer Lopez; Michael Jackson vs. Madonna; Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield.|
|XXXIV||2000||USA||WWF Sunday Night Heat||"Halftime Heat": featured an interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin as he recovered from neck surgery.|
|XXXVI||2002||NBC||Fear Factor||Playboy Playmates edition; 11.4 million viewers|
|XXXVII||2003||NBC||Saturday Night Live, Dateline NBC||Weekend Update with Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey; aired during halftime before the final half-hour of a 90-minute Fear Factor rerun. NBC promoted that this was the first time in SNL history that it had broadcast live in all time zones (SNL itself follow suit for the final episodes of season 42 in 2017). Fear Factor was also followed by a new Dateline NBC, and an airing of Law & Order: Criminal Intent to counter the series premiere of Alias on ABC after the game.|
|XXXVIII||2004||PPV||Lingerie Bowl||An all-female football game played in lingerie, shoulder padding, and helmets, between teams of models and actresses (Team Dream and Team Euphoria) captained by Angie Everhart and Nikki Ziering, with Mike Goldberg and Amy Weber on play-by-play.|
|XXXIX||2005||PPV||Girls Gone Wild||"Girls Gone Wild Halftime Games"; promoted with the tagline "Wardrobe Malfunctions Guaranteed" (in reference to the previous year's halftime show), and co-hosted by Doug Stanhope and Zane Lamprey, the hour-long PPV special featured four teams of women participating in "nudity-inducing" obstacle challenges.|
|Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl|
|XL||2006||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl II|
|PPV||Lingerie Bowl II|
|XLI||2007||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl III|
|Fuse||Pants-Off Dance-Off||"Pancer Bowl I"; dancers stripping football clothing to the music of Super Bowl halftime performer Prince. Fuse also broadcast a "Wardrobe Malfunction Marathon" of the program on the day of the game.|
|Hallmark Channel||From the Heart: Favorite Commercials from Hallmark Cards||Aired during a marathon of Little House on the Prairie|
|PPV||Lingerie Bowl III||Lingerie Bowl III would be the final Lingerie Bowl before a three-year hiatus, resulting from the cancellation of Lingerie Bowl IV due to having reached a new, non-PPV broadcasting deal, the cancellation of Lingerie Bowl V citing "[limited] possibilities in neighboring cities" after failing to receive permits for planned side events in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the cancellation of Lingerie Bowl VI after conflicts with the host, a nudist resort, over exceptions to its clothing-optional policies. A web-based PPV of Lingerie Bowl VII was to be aired during halftime of Super Bowl XLV, but was not available to stream until an hour after the game due to server capacity problems.|
|PPV||Howard Stern's Stupid Bowl III||A flag football game between the staff of The Howard Stern Show and a team of drag queens.|
|XLII||2008||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl IV||Seen by an average of 1.1 million viewers, an increase of 35% from the previous year.|
|Spike||Major League Eating Chowdown||"Ham n' Eggs"; Joey Chestnut eating 7.01 pounds (3.18 kg) of ham and Erik Denmark eating 61 hard-boiled eggs, both in 8 minutes. With average viewership of 863,000 viewers, this was Spike's highest-rated Major League Eating special.|
|Oxygen||Deion & Pilar: Prime Time Love||A "super-sneak preview" of the then-upcoming series starring Deion Sanders was aired against the halftime show during a marathon of Snapped. Seen by 220,000 viewers.|
|XLIII||2009||ABC||Wipeout||"Cheerleaders vs. Couch Potatoes"; the half-hour special was followed by a full episode, "Wipeout Bowl I", airing at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT after the game. ABC averaged 4.2 million viewers from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. throughout the night.|
|CBS||CBS Reports: The Road to the White House||A CBS News special chronicling the inauguration of President Barack Obama.|
|Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl V|
|XLIV||2010||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl VI|
|Fox||'Til Death||The fourth season of 'Til Death was produced solely so it could be burned off by Fox, as its distributor would then have enough episodes to syndicate the low-rated sitcom. With 1.7 million viewers, Fox finished third behind the Super Bowl itself and a rerun of America's Funniest Home Videos in the 7:00 p.m. hour.|
|XLV||2011||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl VII||Seen by 9.2 million viewers across all of its airings throughout the day.|
|PPV||Lingerie Bowl VII||Los Angeles Temptation vs. Philadelphia Passion at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.|
|XLVI||2012||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl VIII||Seen by a total of over 10 million viewers, and was the 2nd most popular program of the day on social media behind the Super Bowl itself.|
|XLVII||2013||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl IX|
|XLVIII||2014||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl X||To coincide with the Super Bowl's festivities in New York City, Animal Planet organized a "Puppy Bowl Experience" (in reference to the NFL Experience) at Discovery Times Square.|
|Hallmark Channel||Kitten Bowl||As a feline parallel to the Puppy Bowl, the broadcast consisted of kittens at play|
|Nat Geo Wild||Fish Bowl||As an aquatic parallel to the Puppy Bowl, the 4-hour broadcast consisted of a goldfish swimming in a bowl. The program was seen by 27,000 viewers.|
|XLIX||2015||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl XI||New "teams", Team Ruff and Team Fluff, were added. Seen by 2.8 million viewers.|
|YouTube||YouTube Halftime Show||Co-produced by Collective Digital Studio and hosted by Epic Meal Time's Harley Morenstein, the special featured contributions by twenty YouTube "creators and musicians", and served to promote the site's AdBlitz channel.|
|Hallmark Channel||Kitten Bowl II||All of the participating kittens were named in reference to NFL players and officials. The special also featured a halftime show with "Katy Furry" in reference to the actual halftime show. Seen by 1.3 million.|
|Discovery Life, Discovery Family, TLC||Toddler Bowl||Featured a group of toddlers competing in physical and mental challenges.|
|Nat Geo Wild||Fish Bowl II||Filmed in the setting of the Nat Geo Wild series The Incredible Dr. Pol (a marathon of the series preceded the special), the second Fish Bowl was expanded to add a clownfish and farm animals as accompaniment.|
|50||2016||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl XII||Seen by 2.2 million viewers.|
|Hallmark Channel||Kitten Bowl III|||
|Nat Geo Wild||Fish Bowl XXL||The setting was expanded to a 50-gallon tank with a larger variety of creatures.|
|Fox||The X-Files||During the halftime period, Fox briefly posted preview footage on its website and social media channels for the revival's season finale.|
|LI||2017||Animal Planet||Puppy Bowl XIII||Seen by 2.5 million viewers, a 12% gain over 2016, and the second-highest to-date.|
|Nat Geo Wild||Fish Bowl IV||"Played" between the "Los Angeles Clams" and "Buffalo Gills", it featured penguin commentators referencing Fox's lead commentators, named Joe Duck and Koi Aikman.|
- "Super Bowl 2nd-most watched show ever". MSNBC.com. Associated Press. February 7, 2006. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
- Williams, Doug. "When Up With People dominated halftime". ESPN. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- "Why Doesn’t Anybody Counter-program the Super Bowl Halftime Show?". GQ. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- "Goal of spectacle colors NFL's thinking about Super Bowl halftime show". Chicago Tribune. February 6, 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
- Weinstien, Steve. "Fox Tackles Super Bowl With Sly Plan : Television: The 'rebel network' hopes to siphon off viewers from CBS with a halftime show of its own featuring the gang from 'In Living Color.'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
- "NBC Gets Final N.F.L. Contract While CBS Gets Its Sundays Off". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. December 21, 1993. Retrieved March 16, 2015.
- "CBS, NBC Battle for AFC Rights // Fox Steals NFC Package". Chicago Sun-Times. Adler & Shaykin. December 18, 1993. Retrieved March 16, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
- Sandomir, Richard (June 30, 2009). "How Jackson Redefined the Super Bowl". The New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- "Super Bowl XLIX Was the Most-Watched TV Show Ever in the U.S.". Time. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- Boren, Cindy. "NFL wild-card game will be simulcast by ESPN on ABC". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Paul, Gough. "NBC Antes Up New Programming Against Super Bowl". MediaPost. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
- "TV ratings: Super Bowl on pace for a record audience". Zap2It. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- "Fox finally finds a way to kill "‘Til Death"". Variety. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- "Green Bay Packers fan "Chuck FM" will play "nothing during the game" Sunday". Radio-Info.com. February 4, 2011. Archived from the original on January 8, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2011.
- Hansen, Barrett (February 2, 2013). Dr Demento on radio Sunday, Feb. 3. DrDemento.com. Retrieved June 1, 2014. Also: "DR. DEMENTO ON THE RADIO SUPER BOWL SUNDAY" from February 5, 2011.
- "YouTube Will Produce Its Own Super Bowl Halftime Show". Bloomberg. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- "Kitten Bowl 2014 lineup, streaming, TV schedule and more". SB Nation. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "Now it's getting silly: 'Fish Bowl' to air opposite Super Bowl". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- Mitchell, Houston (January 11, 2013). "Lingerie Football League changes name; players to wear uniforms". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- "Celebrity Deathmatch makes its debut". EW.com. 1998-05-01. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
- "The Battle For Celebrity Deathmatch, Part 3". Animation World Network. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- "'BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD' A HALFTIME STUNT". New York Daily News. January 24, 1995. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- "IF YOU HATE FOOTBALL, TIME TO PLAY THE FIELD.". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- Schwartz, Bruce (January 30, 2009). "Football not your thing? Tee up these televised 'bowls'". USA Today. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
- "CTV Picks 'Flashpoint' For Coveted Post-Super Bowl Slot". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
- Hibberd, James (December 8, 2008). "'Wipeout' special set for Super Sunday". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 26, 2008.
- "MTV's 'Celebrity Deathmatch': Wickedly Funny Feats in Clay". Los Angeles Times. May 14, 1998. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- "WWE Should Bring Back "Halftime Heat" During the Super Bowl Halftime Show". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- "Alternatives, If You Don't See The Super Bowl, Or Halftime, As Super". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- "Highlights". Washington Post. January 29, 2000. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- Wilstein, Matt (2017-03-16). "SNL to Air Live in All Time Zones for First Time Ever". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
- "NBC blitzes Bowl with ‘SNL’". Variety. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- "Lingerie bowl full of . . . surprises". Chicago Tribune. February 2, 2004. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- Caple, Jim. "Are you ready for some football?". Page 2. ESPN. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- "Wardrobe Malfunctions at Halftime -- Guaranteed". Los Angeles Times. February 6, 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- "Girls Gone Wild Halftime Games Announce Team Lineups". PRNewswire. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- Ryzik, Melena (February 2, 2008). "'Just Fine as Tackles, but They Can’t Pass". The New York Times.
- "The Truth is Not Always Sexy: Inside the Legends Football League". Vice Sports. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- "The Super Bowl isn't for everyone; here are choices". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- "Prince to perform at Super Bowl halftime". SuperBowl.com. December 10, 2006. Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. Retrieved December 10, 2006.
- "More reality for 3 cable shows". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
- "Lingerie Bowl canceled over dispute with Caliente nudist resort". Tampa Bay Times. January 27, 2009. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
- "Lingerie Bowl a no-show". East Valley Tribune. Archived from the original on February 1, 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- "‘Lingerie Bowl’ to coincide with Super Bowl week". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- Salazar, Jo-Ryan (February 7, 2010). "The Biggest Loser of Super Bowl Sunday: The Lingerie Bowl". Bleacher Report. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
- "Super Alternatives To The Super Bowl". Film.com. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
- "Cable's Super Bowl halftime shows score". The Hollywood Reporter. Associated Press. February 7, 2008. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- "Oxygen Slates 'SuperSneak'". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
- "Ratings: On Super Bowl Sunday, ‘Wipeout’ Earns Runner-Up Status". The New York Times. February 2, 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- "'Wipeout Bowl' takes on Super Bowl". Newsday. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- Hibberd, James. "Puppy Bowl draws 9.2 million viewers". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
- Kantowski, Ron. Lingerie Bowl: Outfits of little substance, but style of play serious, Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 7, 2011. Accessed December 12, 2013.
- "Lingerie Bowl VIII is Sunday's other football game". GameOn (USA Today). Retrieved 28 January 2016.
- Chandler, Rick (January 17, 2013). "Hedging a Super Bowl Bet Is One Thing, But What About Hedgehog Cheerleaders?". Lake Tahoe Action. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
- "Puppy Bowl books Keyboard Cat for halftime show (plus Lil Bub, penguin cheerleaders, more) -- EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 8, 2014.
- "Puppy Bowl X Preview: Designer Dogs, Penguin Cheerleaders and Fantasy Four-Legged Football". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
- "Nat Geo Wild Announces Fish Bowl: Stand Down, Puppies". The Wrap. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- "The Fish Bowl -- For When The Puppy Bowl Is Just Too Ruff". HuffPost. 2016-02-06. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
- "Puppy Bowl XI: Meet Team Ruff and Team Fluff". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- Nix (2015-02-01). "2015 MVP Named in Puppy Bowl XI". IGN. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
- "Ratings: 'Puppy Bowl's' 2.8 Million Viewers Licks 'Kitten Bowl' Audience". TheWrap. 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
- "Catch the big ads from the Big Game all month long". YouTube Official Blog. Google. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- "Who needs the Super Bowl when you’ve got puppies, kitties, fish and toddlers?". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
- "Hallmark Channel's Kitten Bowl goes to the Lions". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
- "Super Bowl Counterprogramming Hits Puberty". Deadline. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
- "'Puppy Bowl XII' Paws Its Way to 2.2 Million Viewers". TheWrap. 2016-02-09. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
- Ryan, Patrick. "'Puppy Bowl' unleashes virtual-reality experience". USA Today. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
- "Four-legged fur balls take to the field in Kitten Bowl III". KRQE News 13. Associated Press. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
- "Nat Geo Wild To Air Supersized Fish Bowl, Adds Talk Show, Saturday Kids Block & More – TCA". Deadline.com. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- "Fox Banks on ‘X-Files’ to Upstage Coldplay, Beyonce During Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show". TheWrap. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- "'Puppy Bowl XIII' Laps Up 2.5 Million Viewers for Animal Planet". TheWrap. 2017-02-07. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
- Weber, Lara. "Puppy Bowl XIII could be a huge win for disabled dogs". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
- "Yes, the Fish Bowl is real and it airs on Super Bowl Sunday". SBNation.com. Retrieved 2017-08-02.